– Beth Macy –
Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Townwas written by a woman.
Despite going out of my way to read mostly nonfiction books written by women for the past several years, I find it interesting that a business book authored by a woman is still enough of an anomaly to cause me to pause.
In light of the perceived/actual shortage of nonfiction books written by women (that don't come with a purse or a shoe on its pink cover), I’ve decided to share a few of my favorite nonfiction books written by woman:
Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc:
In addition to being one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read written by a woman, this is also one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read. This moving and powerful account of two girls coming of age in the South Bronx has changed my understanding of how the circumstances into which you are born affects your economic future. Here is my original discussion of the book where I ask if it is possible to change the course of a young girl's life.
Special Exits by Joyce Farmer
This book written in comic form is considered a fictionalized memoir, but since it is based on Farmer’s real life experience taking care of her elderly parents as their health declined I am including it here. When I originally read it, I was reminded of my husband’s parents as he and his sister managed their care in their later years. Now as I attempt to care for my own mother I am again reminded of this book. I wrote about it here.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Lifeby Anne Lamont
I’ve read other books on writing: Steven King’s On Writing and Brenda Ueland’s If You Want To Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, this book is so much more than a book on writing. It is a memoir Lamott wrote based on lessons she learned over the years working as a writer and teacher of a writing class. She provides advice on the craft of writing as well as humorous antidotes about life especially the life of a writer. Her chapter on jealousy is outstanding.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Culturesby Anne Fadiman
This book, the story of a Hmong girl with epilepsy and the conflict between the Hmong community and Western medical personnel, is narrative nonfiction at its best. Fadiman explores in detail what can go wrong with cultural assumptions and misunderstandings.
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
This one follows the stories of six "ordinary" North Koreans who defect to South Korea beginning in the late 1990s. It is another eye-opening book – what living in North Korea may actually be like. Here I include an excerpt from the book in my post about making a mistake at work.
Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie
Coco Chanel covered up much of her past and told enormous lies about her life. What I love about this book is Picardie sorted through personal observations and interviews with surviving friends, employees and relatives; Chanel’s abandoned memoirs and tabloid rumors to uncover the truth and give us an accurate portrayal of Coco Chanel’s life.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Leadby Sheryl Sandberg
This book has its faults, but I’m including it here because it has inspired so many women to begin talking and thinking about their career choices: leaning in and opting out.
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
This book has its faults too. It is long and repetitive and like Lean-In is written from a white middle-class perspective, but this is the book that reignited the feminist movement. Plus, it helped me realize how much influence advertisements had on women’s lives – so much so they abandoned their careers to buy the latest carpet sweeper.
I know there are many more outstanding nonfiction books written by women. What are your favorites?